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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta" - Federico Fellini

So I just got back from a weekend in Boston, and I am home for three days before flying to Toronto for TCAF and I have a bazillion things to do before I go and oh my god aaaaahhh. I didn't really have time to cook yesterday, but I also feel terrible about the amount of take-out and frozen stir-fry that I've been subjecting my kids to. Last night I made a full meal in less than 20 minutes - and you can, too!

If you do not own a crock pot, you are wrong and go get one. Seriously, I bet you even know someone who has one that they never use and will give it to you. They are fools, those people. They know not the amazing tool that they have at their disposal.

Before I left the house, yesterday morning, I rubbed a whole roaster chicken down with olive oil and seasoned salt.* I set my crock pot on high/4 hours. Line the bottom of the crock with crinkled aluminum foil.

Not only does the foil keep the chicken away from it's own drippings (stew is nice but not what you want, here), for some scientific reason that I have not given much thought to it gives it more of a crispy skin than when there's no foil. (Same holds true for roasting potatoes in there.)

Pour about a half cup of water in the bottom of the pot, this will keep the meat nice and moist while it's cooking. Place the chicken on the foil, close the lid.

That's basically it, walk away. Come back in a few hours and your chicken is ready to go.

Along with the chicken I made a quickie pasta saute'.

Wicked Easy Weeknight Pasta

1# large pasta shape

12 oz can of diced tomato, or if you can find them, canned cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, diced
minced garlic to taste, I seriously used a whole head
a handful (a cup or so) of fresh basil, roughly chopped

1/4 c white wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
s/p to taste

Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Get a large saute' pan or wok really really hot - high heat for a minute or two until it just starts to smoke. (This is all in the heat and timing. Saute' takes practice, but this is an easy one.) Add olive oil and immediately add onion and garlic. Stir (or wrist flip if you're fancy) until the onion is translucent. You want to keep the onion & garlic moving around as much as possible - if the garlic browns too much it will turn bitter. Add the wine. If your pan is hot enough, the alcohol will burn off almost immediately and the wine will reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, juice and all. Stir. You'll notice after about a minute that the sauce will have thickened, the goal is to reduce the sauce by about 1/3. Add vinegar, stir, then add the pasta. Give it a quick toss to coat the pasta and remove from heat. Toss in the basil at the end, season with salt and pepper.

The whole active saute' process takes less than five minutes once your ingredients are chopped and the pasta is cooked.

This is so basic that you could easily add other things at the end - capers and shrimp might be nice, for example - or kalamata olives and feta cheese!

*You can buy seasoned salt already mixed, but be careful because a lot of brands have MSG and silica and weird additives. I like Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Seasonings, but you can easily mix your own. I have a problem, I impulse-buy different spices and seasoning mixes just about every time I'm in the store. It's ridiculous.


Joshua Lewis said...

As someone who just got a crock pot last week and has been lamenting the end of stew/chili season and wondering what I'm going to do instead... roasting a chicken is an inspired move. Inspired, I say!

Lala said...

I do this with a frozen chicken, which has the advantage of extending the cooking time to 8 or 9 hours. I don't add the water, in that case. Protip: be sure to take the giblet bag out before freezing. I learned that one the disgusting way.